North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Remain vigilant for scams that target military

6/27/2016

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

American servicemembers are on guard to protect our country, and we’re grateful for their service. Sadly, they also need to stay alert to avoid scams and bad deals that target military consumers.

For example, military personnel were tricked into buying computers, gaming systems and other electronics at prices that were two to three times higher than what the items were actually worth. The sales took place at a chain of stores in shopping malls near military bases across the country, including locations near Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. Consumers reported the rip off to my office and we took action, winning nearly $7 million dollars in debt forgiveness and $259,000 in refunds for North Carolina servicemembers through a settlement with Rome Finance.

Pushy sales tactics and deliberately confusing paperwork trapped young servicemembers, still learning how to manage a salary, into bad deals with interest rates far greater than allowed under North Carolina law. In addition to the refunds and debt forgiveness, the defendants in this case also had to clear related negative items from consumers’ credit reports.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Other businesses such as Freedom Furniture and GIBill.com have been caught using shady tactics to exploit members of the military, and similar scams likely happen without being reported.

While my office will continue to take all available steps to protect the men and women who protect our country, we’d rather help members of the military avoid being scammed in the first place.

Our guide for military consumers provides information and guidance, and offers tips including:

  • Watch out for scammers who claim connections to the military to gain your trust and take your money.
  • Say no to advance fee loans and credit cards. Legitimate lenders never charge money up front.         
  • Keep your credit safe. Use an active duty alert or a security freeze to protect your credit during deployment.
  • Shop around. Before making major purchases on items like electronics or cars, compare several options to avoid marked up prices and high interest rates.
  • Be cautious when buying a car. Get used cars inspected by a certified, trusted mechanic before signing paperwork or paying money.
  • Stick to the insurance you need without all the extras. Resist hard sell tactics from insurance agents who try to sell extra insurance to military personnel.
  • Invest your money wisely. When considering savings options for your deployment pay, reenlistment bonus, or retirement, avoid risky investment deals and self-serving financial planners. Choose safe investments, like the Military Savings Deposit Program or a Roth IRA.
  • Know your rights. Active duty military personnel are covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which can offer protection and relief regarding mortgages, leases, interest rates, and eviction and other court proceedings.

If you have problems with a merchant or lender, let my Consumer Protection Division know about it at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or online at ncdoj.gov. Complaints filed with our office will not go up your chain of command, and we will not communicate with your chain of command unless you ask us to.

Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff are working to educate consumers and protect them from scams. We are here to be of service when you need us but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.
 
Note to editors: This is one in a series of columns that Attorney General Cooper distributes to educate consumers. If you have questions, please contact us at news@ncdoj.gov.